Ottoman Empire Tax Law and a Dystopian for Adults: Winter 2015 Fiction Preview

Ottoman Empire Tax Law and a Dystopian for Adults: Winter 2015 Fiction Preview

The holidays are here, and if you’re looking for a way to avoid some unwanted houseguests, then hole up in your room with a novel. Fiction makes for fine escapism, and this winter’s crop of new novels is no exception. From Ali Smith’s rule-breaking new work to Miranda July’s debut novel, we’ve rounded up an incredibly exciting bunch of books to get you through the winter without having to talk to any of your cousins.

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1. The Strange Library

Worse than late fees

Haruki Murakami fans, rejoice! The much-beloved novelist and short-story writer is back with a short (for him) work about a boy who goes to the library to return two books and is drawn into a nightmarish room in the building’s basement. Murakami incorporates themes from Kafka’s The Trial in this troubling and deeply unsettling book about trying to escape from the clutches of the Sheep Man via a strenuous round of questioning about tax law in the Ottoman Empire. Final exams may be over, but Murakami’s creepy novella will elevate your blood pressure all the same.

On shelves: December 2

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2. How to Be Both

One way or another

Scottish writer Ali Smith’s How to Be Both is finishing off 2014 with a bang. Given a starred review in Publishers Weekly and named one of the Best Fiction Books of 2014 by Kirkus, this is a title fiction writers cannot miss. What makes the work particularly captivating is the two ways of reading it. The book is divided into two sections: Eyes and Camera. But it also printed in two different ways. In one printing, Eyes comes first and then Camera. In the other, Camera comes first and then Eyes. The narratives are identical, merely swapped. Smith is making a statement about the versatility of art and she aims to give readers a unique experience, an experience that may or may not change how you view the novel as a whole. Our advice? Grab a reading buddy and read the parts in the opposite order: then discuss.

On shelves: December 2

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3. Honeydew

Just an ordinary day

Edith Pearlman’s 2011 collection, Binocular Vision, won the National Book Critics Circle Award—making her latest endeavor Honeydew a not-to-be-missed book for short story lovers. The tales in this collection observe ordinary lives, people, and moments. From a wife grieving for her husband who was killed during the war to a stowaway on a cruise ship, these slices of life explore the beauty, heartache, and power of an ordinary day. The writing itself is poetic, enchanting, and imbued with Pearlman’s wisdom.

On shelves: January 6

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4. The Season of Migration

The beginning of the beginning

Much of what we know of Vincent van Gogh’s remarkable and tragic life comes from the detailed letters sent between Vincent and his brother Theo. There is but one period, lasting ten months, that the pair remained silent. What happened during those ten months remains mostly a mystery, though it is one that Nellie Hermann imagines beautifully in her second novel: The Season of Migration. Hermann begins when Vincent arrives in the coal-mining village of Petit Wasmes in Belgium. He came to preach, but what he finds in the town will shake his beliefs profoundly. The famed painter learns that his vocation may not be what it originally seemed.

On shelves: January 6

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5. Radiance of Tomorrow

Picking up the pieces

Author Ishmael Beah is a rising star. After the publication of his memoir, A Long Way Gone, was published in 2007, Dave Eggers called him “arguably the most read African writer in contemporary literature.” Now, he’s back with this novel about the aftermath of the civil war in Sierra Leone. Benjamin and Bockarie return home to the town of Imperi to discover that there are bones scattered on the ground and the village has been destroyed. Will the two friends be able to bring order and peace to the place they call home, or will the damage done by the conflict prove to be too great?

On shelves: January 6

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6. The First Bad Man

Have we met before?

You may know Miranda July as the quirky writer, director, and star of indie films Me and You and Everyone We Know and The Future, but now she’s also a novelist. The First Bad Man features protagonist Cheryl, who has her sights set on Philip, a coworker at the nonprofit where she works. Cheryl is certain they’ve been lovers in past lives, but they haven’t hooked up in this one yet—and she’s very interested in fixing that. Suddenly, 21-year-old Clee moves in, and Cheryl’s small, strange world will never be the same again.

On shelves: January 13

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7. The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac

Bigfoot’s big impact

When he was 9-years-old, Eli Roebuck’s mother shacked up with a sasquatch (or rather a tall, very hairy man who may or may not be a sasquatch, but definitely goes by the name Mr. Krantz). Bigfoot took his bride and went to live in the woods, and Eli began a lifelong search for the creature. In The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, author Sharma Shields explores the impact of Eli’s hunt on his family, and readers quickly see that Eli isn’t the only one battling monsters, both literally and figuratively. Magical and highly imaginative, you won’t read much else like this.

On shelves: January 27

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8. My Sunshine Away

You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you

Every boy in Baton Rouge is infatuated with 15-year-old Lindy Simpson, but perhaps none more so than the narrator of M.O. Walsh’s debut novel. He tells the story as a memory, an adult looking back at the summer of his 14th year, the summer that Lindy was raped. The violent crime rocks his Southern neighborhood and suddenly every man and boy around is a suspect, including him. If you’re planning on reading any Southern gothics this year, this is the one to start with.

On shelves: February 10

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9. The Country of Ice Cream Star

A pocket full of posies

If you’re feeling a little bit left out of the post-apocalyptic YA trend, then we’ve got the book for you. The narrator may be a fifteen year-old, but this gripping dystopian tale is definitely not just for your kid brother. Ice Cream Star and her nomadic group of children have survived a terrible plague in America in the not-so-distant future, and what’s left looks pretty grim. Only children and teenagers roam the wreckage, and each of them will die before age 20 of a disease called Posies that has ravaged the population for generations. When Ice Cream Star’s brother gets his first symptoms, she knows she has no choice but to find the cure.

On shelves: February 10

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10. After Birth

When men are weak, the mothers are strong

We’ve all heard the truism that parenting is the toughest job there is, but nowhere is this more apparent than in Elisa Albert’s new novel, which takes on the trials of new motherhood. Albert’s feminism is on display in this tour de force that follows the story of Ari, a mother who experienced a very difficult delivery when she gave birth to her son, Walker. Ari soon forms a strong bond with a musician, Mina, who is extremely pregnant. The two provide vital support to one another, and show just how isolating and difficult motherhood can be. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll treat the new mothers in your life with a little more respect.

On shelves: February 17

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